Saturday, January 27, 2007

Chinatown Lights up for Chinese New Year of the Pig

Undaunted by the threatening sky and light drizzle, the performers started arriving at Chinatown at 5.30pm today (27 Jan 07). A small crowd had already started to form along the barricades placed along Eu Tong Sen St and New Bridge Rd.

The host of the evening was MP, Dr. Neo, who came dressed in a bright red pant suit, which certainly brightened up the gloomy skies. (^^) It was quite a crowded affair with some 280 lions peforming on the stilts and roads. A special see-through dragon complete with twinkling lights (powered by a mobile generator) was there to greet the VIPs, amongst whom include ambassadors from countries like USA.

The biggest cheer giver must be the Cai Shen (God of Wealth). He (she) was there to give away chocolate gold nuggets and angpows (red packets) much to the delight of the crowd. The crowd also wanted to touch his (her) hand in the hope of getting some wealth rubbed onto them.

At 7pm, the Prime Minister and his wife arrived, to the cheers of the crowd from both sides of the streets. Dressed in a traditional Chinese shirt, he looked relaxed, ready to absorb in the cheers of the evening. A spread of many interesting performances were put up for the VIPs and guests as well as the visitors to Chinatown, including its dwindling residents. Most had to content with the live-broadcast on the screens placed on both sides of the road as the stage was too far away for many.

When PM and Dr. Neo turned the gold coin placed on the stage, it signalled the beginning of the night's show with a dragon fireball the rolled in the air from the former Police Station right through to People's Park Complex. Just as it passed the complex, a big explosion of fire crackers took off .. darkening the entire place, bringing us back to the days of familiar firecrackers smokes and fumes. What nostalgia.

From the word go, it was a one and a half hour of no stop action, dances and performances. If they could make the performance ala Ching Gay, it would be great as the crowd that lined the streets would be able to get a better glimpse. What they could see was the lions and dragons and the float put up by the Tooth Relic Temple. But the performance was great .. the dances of our young people and those from China, all dazzled.

The Zhong Kui dance was great but alas too short and restricted on the stage. The whole entourage going on the streets would have met with great response.

Ah, the "huat ah" shout has taken on from the Chinese temple events to this event. Instead of the long words to greet Chinese New Year, the comperes decided "Huat Ah" - prosperity in Hokkien/Teochew - was easy enough to coax the crowd. And so, it was a tremendous three "Huat Ah" shouts from the crowd. The Cai Shen must be the one as he was the one asking the crowd to shout "Huat Ah" before they could get their gold nuggets.

The grand finale, with PM, Dr. Neo, VIPs and organisers getting on stage to sing the Chinese New Year song, ended with another blast of fire crackers and fireworks. The short but powerful event had the crowd wanting more. Even when the event ended, the crowd was still standing by the barricade, hoping for more.

The next three weeks will be hectic weeks as the Chinese prepare for Chinese New Year. There are some 500 stalls in Chinatown set up to see all the goodies that one needs for the Chinese New Year celebrations, from ingredients for reunion dinner to Chinese New Year gifts (for parents and parents-in-laws, and potential ones) to sweets to entertain Chinese New Year visitors.

Like the fat pig, one hopes for a "fat" new year.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Busking at the "People's" Square

On a typical weekends, the open space surrounded by OG, old People's Park (as we call them), People's Park Complex and Majestic Building, is often filled full of human traffic. Older folks would sit on the concrete surrounding the trees and listen to the other older folks busking. What a wonderful afternoon to while the time away, listening to songs of yesteryears, something the grandchildren or even the children might not enjoy.

On some days, there could be two to three groups of buskers, some accompanied by musicians as in this case, where they play a assortment of musical instruments. Now, if only the story tellers, like those of yesteryears - the famous Cantonese Lei Dai Soh or Hokkien Ong Toh - were there too.

The cobblers carried on their work at the fringe, with their share of audience, some customers and some probably members of their respective chatgroups. To those diners along the row of Toh Kee, it was added entertainment. To the oldies, they might remember the old days when there were singers who would go from table to table to sing. That was in the very old open air People's Park.

If Republic Food Court would create their foodcourts with a touch of the old, maybe, such nostalgic times could be re-created for People's Park and Chinatown. We certainly can enjoy some operas being sung too.